Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
I receive many emails from people complaining that their partner still relates to their ex boyfriend or girlfriend. To make matters worse they report that their partner keeps photos of the ex or communicates with them via Facebook, Twitter or Email. Can this be detrimental to a relationship or is it something that should be ignored? Here is an example of one email:
“I’m in a relationship with my boyfriend for more than 3 years. He still has his ex’s photos and refuses to remove them. They were with each other for 5 years. He says that he doesn’t have any feeling about her or her pictures but these photos have to be saved because they are his memories and remind him of his past. He also mentions that I will never see them but maybe, after 20 years or so, we will check them together and laugh. I say why should he have these photos of being in each others arms, hugging or kissing each other or their portraits. I can’t understand it.”
It seems fairly obvious that doing things like keeping photos or maintaining contact with a former partner will arouse lots of jealousy. Such behavior feels like a threat. This is especially so if a current relationship is having problems and conflicts. In this case the ex partner may seem like a good alternative to the present one. In addition, any relationship can be threatened by an ex.
A factor that increases the damage that is done to a couple is the fact that this activity is kept secret. Most often, the lover comes across photos, emails and Facebook activity by accident. If keeping these things is so innocent then why keep them secret? Also, why not give up such things as photos and other types of contact? If someone is fully committed to their romantic partner why not be understanding of their feelings about this?
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Secret or not, maintaining contact with a former lover dilutes or takes energy and focus away from the present relationship. In other words, this is a distraction that serves no good purpose.
A secure and trusting romantic relationship rests upon a foundation of trust. This trust cannot be established if either one of the partners remains in contact with a former lover.
What are your experiences with this problem?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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